It's just over 11 years since we flipped the switch on Eurogamer and started pumping our thoughts about games out into the world, and this will be the seventh game of the year we've named in that time. Despite a few leftfield choices along the way though (Psychonauts in 2005 is still my favourite), we've never crowned an RPG - until today.
It's tempting to say that RPGs have simply emerged from their spotty adolescence, and that the widespread success of Mass Effect 2 and the clamour for information about its upcoming sequel are merely just rewards for a style of game that has become increasingly innovative and self-aware - to the extent that no other genre can now claim to be divorced from its influence.
But Mass Effect 2 also emerged into ideal conditions. It arrived in a world where some of the highest-grossing movies of the year would be about people hacking each other's dreams and the guy who invented Facebook, and where your girlfriend moans about X Factor spoilers on Twitter before devouring Lost with as much intensity as we used to mine Star Trek. Mass Effect 2 has done a lot to make RPGs work for the masses, but its arrival also coincided with a broader coming-of-age for geek culture in an interconnected world.
It wasn't to everyone's taste - and along with a few happy tributes from Eurogamer writers over the next couple of pages, we've included a couple of denouncements to set you on your way - but in the end it won our staff vote by a distance, leaving the likes of Super Mario Galaxy 2 and Red Dead Redemption for stardust. So congratulations to BioWare and Electronic Arts. Mass Effect 2 is Eurogamer's Game of the Year 2010.
(Oh, and in case you haven't played Mass Effect 2 yet, please note that spoilers lie ahead. And please note that you should play Mass Effect 2.)
"You are ignorant. We are knowing."
Christian Donlan has contributed to Eurogamer for nearly three years. In 2010 he reviewed God of War III and was one of the first people in the world to play with the Xbox 360 Slim. Meanwhile, his dad appeared on Bargain Hunt.
"I'm not much use here on Planet Earth, but it turns out I'm even more of a liability when I head into space," Christian writes. "On my first playthrough of Mass Effect 2, everybody died, and Joker was left to battle an alien invasion of mile-high matte black Witch Space hermit crabs, with nothing but a dozen Samsonite coffins to keep him company. At least he'd have something to take cover behind.
"Personal failings notwithstanding - and putting aside the fact that I'm still unable to emerge from a BioWare character creator with anything but a knitting catalogue model or reception supply teacher to show for all my hours spent screwing around with sliders - Mass Effect 2 was a wonderful way to pass a few frosty evenings back in January. Not only had President Bartlett come along for the ride while some of the annoyances of the first game's combat system had stayed at home, BioWare's sequel really delivered in terms of scope and incident when it came to bringing life to all that galactic real-estate.
"Whether it's raiding a futuristic skyscraper, picking through the rare shadowed spaces of a deadly sun-baked landing site, or exploring a spooky laboratory while thunder and lightning split the air outside, Mass Effect 2 offered genuinely interesting places to go, and entertaining things to do once there. It was everything I wanted from a sequel, more or less, and for the final instalment I'd be pretty happy to plod through more of the same - but with shorter loading times, if possible."
"You do not yet comprehend your place in things."
Robert Purchese is Eurogamer's senior staff writer. This month he spoke to everyone he could think of about how to stop World of Warcraft.
"Mass Effect 2? Oh yes, the one with the gratuitous ass shots and no same-sex relationships. Also, what happened to the mystery and the intrigue? Remember Knights of the Old Republic and the sense of surprise when you picked up a companion? You didn't start with Bastila Shan, Juhani or HK-47. Even in Mass Effect 1, you didn't know you were going to recruit Liara T'Soni while exploring that science facility, and Ashley Williams didn't begin the adventure as your companion.
"Mass Effect 2, in contrast, fits you with a blank cheque and then systematically orders you to corners of the universe to pick up specific people for your mission. Where's the surprise in that? I know I'm going to pick up Project Zero, chat with them, do a loyalty mission and maybe sleep with them. I didn't realise I'd end up smooching Bastila Shan, but in Mass Effect 2 everyone's a possible sex target. It's too transparent.
"And what of your companions' powers? Project Zero is billed as the Death Star personified, but instead becomes restricted by the same character template as everyone else. Why can't there be inaccessible, unique powers? Even more so than Mordin, even more so than Grunt.
"And yet Mass Effect 2 is my game of the year, because none of that really mattered. It didn't bother me that I knew what lay ahead when I recruited people, because I knew I'd have fun doing it. The universe is incredible, and I'm considering going back when the PS3 conversion materialises. Would I have enjoyed it more if the things I've just moaned about were done differently? Perhaps. Did I enjoy Mass Effect 2 regardless? More than enough."
"Shepard, you could have been useful."
Kristan Reed is a former editor of Eurogamer. This year he reviewed over 300 mobile and download games and still found time to give the wonderful Pac-Man Championship Edition DX a worthy 10/10.
"Having spent an entire week replaying the original Mass Effect (thanks, save-game eater), completing every mission, every god-damned Mako mission, every side quest, and both DLC packs, I fully expected Mass Effect 2 to be something akin to gaming's second coming. What could possibly go wrong? They'd sorted out the combat, got rid of the stupid Mako missions, streamlined the structure, removed the confused wandering and even taken out the annoying lifts.
"For me though, somewhere along the line BioWare removed a chunk of the game's soul. I'd grown to love the overheating weapon system. I liked the intricacy of the locations. I liked having a real choice over my party's weapon loadout.
"Somehow this didn't feel like Mass Effect anymore, but something closer to a linear corridor shooter. To compound matters, the vast majority of the missions felt run of the mill. There was the odd notable exception, but for much of the time this was wholly forgettable stop-and-pop fodder. I certainly feel like I enjoyed it while I was playing it, but I have very little recollection of what actually happened in most of it.
"And who thought that the new planet mining system was a good idea? Goodness knows how many hours of my life were lost to that. And for what? To make sure none of my party died at the end of the game? Well, job done, I guess, but by the end of my 40 hours with the game, it felt like two steps forward, two steps back. While the best bits of Mass Effect 2 were easily among the most entertaining moments of the year, it felt like one of those sprawling double concept albums from the 1970s that only makes sense when you're high."
"We are the harbinger of your perfection."
Dan Whitehead has written for Eurogamer for nearly five years and contributed over 350 reviews in that time. This year he rolled the dice on Fallout: New Vegas and took Disney Epic Mickey among many others.
"I really wish I could play Mass Effect 2 again, but I can't. Not for any practical reason but because Shepard - my Shepard - has already had that adventure, and it just feels wrong to rewind and do it over again. I have friends who have played it through multiple times, and have created a brand new Shepard every time. I can't do that. My Shepard is canon, my decisions are his, and they're now written in stone. I know it's weird and doesn't make much sense, but that's how much I loved BioWare's peerless world-building. There's only one Shepard, he's the same guy I played through the first game with, and he'll be the guy I'll control through Mass Effect 3 next year.
"Of course, it's worth setting aside a big slice of praise pie for the way BioWare overhauled the rather creaky original game, streamlined it and built up its gameplay muscle without ever quite letting go of the RPG thread at its heart. But for me it's the characters that drew me in, and the world they inhabit. That's why I was so thrilled by the good DLC, like Lair of the Shadow Broker, and so disappointed by the weaker stuff. It's a chance to slip back into that universe for a few more hours before putting Shepard back in stasis until the next game.
"So while I'm very conscious of the fact that I'm denying myself the chance to revisit one of the best games of this generation, I kind of like the fact that there's a game that I'm so emotionally invested in that I'd rather abstain than risk diluting its narrative power."
"This body does not matter. The flesh is a machine."
"One of the privileges of editing the site and being the only guy stupid enough to do any work over the Christmas holiday is that I can give myself the last word on our game of the year. And one of the reasons it's delightful to see Mass Effect 2 come out on top is that despite having had the first word on it in our January review and another go-round with it earlier this week, it's a game that supports no end of dissection and tribute.
"Everyone applauds the resonance of Commander Shepard's decision-making, of course, which will eventually ripple out across three massive games, and the Mass Effect universe is generally celebrated for its wonderful depth and air of mystery. But another thing I particularly enjoy is the tangibility of Shepard's accomplishments amidst the dense nest of military and political machinations through which he has to manoeuvre his volatile crew.
"At times, Mass Effect 2 may be no less guilty of driving you along a conveyor belt of explosions and loud noises than Call of Duty: Black Ops - a game where the intrigue is literally shouted into your face from the first minute onward - but it is much better at disguising this illusion. When Shepard convinces somebody to do something, he just as often sells you on the decision in the process - thanks in no small part to the voice work of Shepard actors Mark Meer and Jennifer Hale, whose epic contributions stand out even in a cast that glitters almost as brightly as the stars twinkling outside the Normandy's portholes.
"Other RPGs have built us up from amnesia and sun-soaked castaways to defenders of the universe, and in this respect Mass Effect 2 can't exactly claim any special quality or inspirational breakthrough - but it's a testament to BioWare's superb craft that something so controlled and so deliberately polished can still feel so empowering from start to finish, and that shouldn't be overlooked.
"All that, and it still boasts the clunkiest flirting in all the galaxy. You can take the geek out of his robe and wizard's hat... And with Mass Effect 3 primed for next Christmas, can BioWare do the unthinkable and make it two games of the year in a row? We can't wait to find out."